We receive numerous questions from homeowners requesting advice in selecting perennials.
Choosing perennials for one’s garden can be daunting–the options are limitless. Knowing your growing conditions–type of soil, sun exposure, climate, etc.–will help to narrow the choices of plants, especially if you are looking for tried and true ‘low-maintenance’ plants.
All perennials have different requirements for growth. Some perennials thrive with six hours of sun, others need only four hours and others prefer a fair amount of shade. Some perennials like sun in the morning and others tolerate the hot afternoon sun. To figure out how much light there is in your garden; observe where the sun is at different hours of the day.’The right plant in the right place’ will keep plant care to a minimum.
It is also important to understand the type of soil you have because different perennials grow best in different types of soil. To help you identify the soil in your front lawn please review the following link:
One must consider the mature sizes of the plants. What colours do you prefer? Most perennials bloom for a specific time during the growing season; many perennials have interesting foliage. Do you want plants that spread or stay in clumps? What plant combinations do you prefer? Knowing the habits of the plants will help you make choices.
The following information is from one of our archived posts:
Planning a new garden space can be both exciting and daunting at the same time. Tall, short, wide, thin, hot colours, cool colours,- the list of notable characteristics is endless.
Bringing broad plant groups together allows you to build a well-rounded mixed beds and borders, brimming with plants that provide engaging colour, form, texture and structure.
Probably the greatest thing about an expanded plant palette is that it provides an opportunity to have something going on in the garden during all four seasons.
When selecting perennials the flower colour , growing conditions and height are all important factors, however one should also focus on foliage. Although, foliage might seem boring when compared to flowers, it is one of the most important features of the plant. Most perennials will flower for a period of 3-4 weeks leaving the foliage for the remainder of the season.
Building a mixed border is a lot like preparing your favourite recipe and you are well on your way by beginning with your shrub roses. Since we spend most of our time enjoying our garden in the summer you should think about including ¼ of your perennials which flower in the spring, ½ that flower in the summer, and ¼ of them to flower in the fall.
The next step is to think of your colour palette- do you prefer cool colours- blues, purples and whites; or do you prefer hot colours- reds, yellow, purple.
Before planting begins you should think about soil. Most gardens in new developments are likely to have heavy clay or, worse, builder’s fill, which is just sand and clay. If you want a successful garden, improving poor soil is a must, you should add at least 20cm of good organic matter or triple mix. When it comes to fertilizer more is not necessarily better and too much can cause more problems then it solves. Before fertilizing it is recommended you have your soil tested. Using a 4 inch layer of wood mulch ( not bark) on top will help retain moisture, decrease weed growth and over time breakdown and add to the nutrients in the soil.
The following are a list of easy-to-grow perennials. All are perfect for the beginning gardener, as they do well in sun or partial shade and in any decent soil. None of them require any special care
|Bleeding Heart||May||25-30cm||Partial shade|
|Purple coneflower||August||60-150cm||Sun/partial shade|
|Black-eyed susan||August||60-90cm||Sun/partial shade|
Note: the height is the height at time of flowering.
The Toronto Master Gardeners have some excellent gardening guides that you may wish to peruse:
Drought Tolerant Perennials https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/gardeningguides/drought-tolerant-perennials-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/
Perennials for Full Sunhttps://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/gardeningguides/perennials-for-full-sun-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/
Perennials for Shade in Dry or Moist Areas https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/gardeningguides/perennials-for-shade-in-dry-or-moist-areas-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/
Long blooming Perennials https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/gardeningguides/long-blooming-perennials-a-toronto-master-gardeners-guide/
Another consideration is how much time you will spend maintaining the garden. Some plants have less care requirements and are drought tolerant like Rudbeckia (Daisy like flowers) while others such as Delphiniums require regular tending and staking.
From our archived posts titled: When to plant perennials:
Ideally, the best time to plant perennials is in the early spring since the plants will have time to become established before the hot weather begins. You will also find the best perennial selection during the spring months, especially if you are looking for early spring blooming varieties.
Perennials can also be planted in the fall as long as there are three to four weeks of good growing weather to develop strong healthy roots before the first hard frost.
It is strongly recommended you use a starter fertilizer at the time of planting for all new transplants. Choose a fertilizer that is high in phosphorous (middle number), such as 10-52-10, this will encourage the development of a strong root system which is necessary for healthy growth and production. It will also help prevent transplant shock. You can continue to use this fertilizer throughout the first growing season.
Covering the ground around your plants with a layer of mulch will help conserve moisture, prevent erosion, slow weed growth, moderate temperature, prevent crusting of the soil surface, and protect against soil compaction. Organic mulches are ideal because they insulate the soil, reduce evaporation of water and, add nutrients to the soil as they break down. You can use different products for mulching which include compost, manure, bark mulch, leaf litter, straw and other materials.
Make sure to keep your perennials well watered for the first couple of weeks after planting. Then water when the soil below the surface feels dry to the touch. Don’t keep the soil soggy, which can cause rotting.
It is also important to remember to amend your soil every year with organic matter.
Good Luck with your new garden.